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Open Forum: Ending with a whimper

After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” said President Obama shortly after a private Oct. 21 video conference with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. Iraqi leaders refused to give US troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, while US military officials are refusing to stay without it. So the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement which calls for all US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 remains in force.

As the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole notes, the possibility of immunity was lost on Sept. 16, 2007 when Blackwater private security guards opened fire in Nisoor Square under the mistaken impression that they were under attack by civilian motorists. Seventeen were killed, dozens wounded, and the incident emboldened Iraqis who wanted us out. U.S. courts declined to punish the Blackwater guards ending the chance for immunity.

Few of us are protesting the end of a war in which 4,400 US troops died. Sectarian violence is lower, but attacks such as the one that recently killed 25 in Baghdad continue. Our invasion created a Shia ally for Iran, replacing its Sunni check on Iran influence. Kurds in the north continue to wave Kurdish flags. There are no new power plants to ease the severe electricity shortage. U.S. oil companies have a minor part of new Iraq oil agreements. Our visions of permanent bases in Iraq and a possible Middle East friend for Israel were always pipe dreams.

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, “This is the way the Iraq War ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”

Rolf Westgard


THE BRAINERD DISPATCH will not run anymore letters to the editor or guest columns on the school levies until after Tuesday’s election.